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Gynecol Oncol. 2004 Jul;94(1):1-9.

Extent of radical hysterectomy: evolving emphasis.

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  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL 33606, USA.



As with other oncologic operations, the indications for and the technique of radical hysterectomy for cervical cancer has changed considerably since its initial conception in the late 19th century. This paper reviews the evolution of concepts concerning the extent of radical hysterectomy for cervical cancer.


A Medline literature search was performed through looking for articles published in the English language that related to radical hysterectomy for cervical cancer. Specific subjects that were searched included technique, morbidity, and histopathologic assessment of the parametria.


Initial emphasis on local control and potential long-term survival gradually shifted to reduction of mortality and serious morbidity. Early refinements directed attention to the regional lymph nodes, definition of prognostic factors, and determination of the population of patients best suited for the operation. During the mid to late 20th century, a better understanding of regional and local prognostic factors helped clarify the role of adjuvant treatment following radical hysterectomy. By the mid 20th century, the mortality and serious morbidity rates had fallen substantially, and attention turned to reduction of other types of morbidity, especially urinary bladder voiding dysfunction. Reduction of much of the serious morbidity (urinary fistulas) and voiding dysfunction has been related to modifications of the extent of radical hysterectomy. Specific nerve-sparing techniques now have been described. However, maintaining full radicality continues to be emphasized at some centers.


The current primary operative approaches to stage 1B cervical cancer include full radical hysterectomy, modified radical hysterectomy followed by adjuvant therapy in selected patients, radical hysterectomy with nerve-sparing, and individualization of surgical management. Studies are needed which further elucidate the significance of parametrial micrometastases, further define and refine broadly feasible nerve-sparing techniques, and more accurately preoperatively identify low and high risk cervical tumors. Optimally, these studies will remove adjuvant treatment as a confounding variable.

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